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Full text of "History And Human Relation"

MORAL    JUDGMENTS    IN    HISTORY

must regard myself as a responsible person who may do
things that are moral and immoral, and may follow or
betray a law which is written on my conscience or a law
that I have imposed upon myself; yet in regard to other
people (who may think earnestly and differ from me
about the law itself) and in regard to other people's
actions once they are done (so that I cannot now prevent
them), the passing of what purports to be a moral
judgment—particularly a judgment which. amounts to
the assertion that they are worse men than I am—is not
merely irrelevant, but actually immoral and harmful, not
merely dangerous to my soul but unfitted for producing
improvement in human nature anywhere.

Fourthly, granted that the State is under the necessity
of punishing crimes, and granted that in the case of
crime the oflFence is not merely technical but has moral
implications (though sometimes the implications are not
so assured or so direct as the world would like to
believe), still we are not justified in expanding a legal
verdict into a final judgment on a personality, or in
assuming that because our own sins do not happen to
have been also technical offences they are less morally
blameworthy. If a man is sent to gaol, in fact, both the
judge and the gaoler are to be interpreted as saying to
him: " Look here, old sport, we know that you may be
a better man than we are, but since we can't tell what to
do in order to save society, we have to resort to force ".
If it is necessary to hang murderers, we must be sure
that we are doing it because of a necessity and not out
of moral indignation. And when we have done it we
shall do well to reflect sadly on the bitterness of the

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